Columbian College About Hero


Our scope, our people and our history make Columbian College

a center of learning like none other.



About Columbian College



GW CCAS students inside SEH


The Columbian College of Arts and Sciences is GW’s intellectual and creative backbone—a place where research thrives, critical thinking is encouraged, collaboration is constant and real-world training goes hand-in-hand with learning.

As pioneers of the Engaged Liberal Arts, we equip students with the skills needed to be effective, responsible 21st-century citizens.


Our Scope

Columbian College is GW’s largest and most comprehensive academic unit. It's home to 42 academic departments, three affiliated schools, 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 20 research centers and more than 500 full-time faculty—including Fulbright and Guggenheim scholars, award-winning artists, cutting-edge scientists and critically acclaimed authors.

Chartered Columbian College


4 blocks from the White House


Columbian College is GW's largest academic unit



The Engaged Liberal Arts in Action

Doctoral Thesis in Three Minutes

Columbian College PhD students stepped up to a speed-challenge in the college’s Three-Minute Thesis Competition. Kimberly Foecke from Human Paleobiology won first prize.

Physics, Professionally Speaking

Alexander van der Horst’s redesigned capstone course equips physics students with the oral, written and ethical expertise needed to succeed in 21st-century careers.

Mission: Rescue the Bay

Biology’s Keryn Gedan leads her student researchers into the Eastern Shore marshes of the Chesapeake Bay, where sea level is rising at three times the global average.


Our People


  • Intro (timeline)
    Columbian College of Arts and Sciences Bicentennial Milestones

    Intro (timeline)




  • 1821
    1821 Timeline image


    President James Monroe signs the Act of Congress chartering the Columbian College. The first commencement takes place in 1824 with three students graduating. The first MA degree is conferred in 1831. Image: First college building, located at “College Hill” in what is now Columbia Heights. The Columbian College seal was drawn and adopted by the Board of Trustees in 1821. 

  • 1861
    1861-1865: Timeline image illustration with trees and houses


    During the Civil War, the U.S. Government commandeers the College Hill campus and  buildings are used as a hospital and barracks. Despite sagging enrollment, professors continue to hold classes, often in their homes. Image: Carver Barracks on Columbian College grounds

  • 1873
    1873: early engraving of Columbian University


    The college becomes Columbian University and establishes the Schools of English, Greek, Latin, Modern Languages, Mathematics, Natural Science and Philosophy. Image: Columbian University, early engraving

  • 1888
    1888: Mable Nelson Thurston


    Mable Nelson Thurston is among the first female students admitted to the university. Thurston Hall is later named in her honor. Also that year, the first PhD degrees are awarded. Image: Mable Nelson Thurston

  • 1890
    1890: Collage of vintage photos of students arranged in a 99 shape


    Initially called The Columbiad, the yearbook is published. Image: Early yearbook photos

  • 1893
    1893: a group of 1890s classmates in a black and white photo


    The School of Graduate Studies formally opens with 24 graduate students in 72 courses taught by 24 professors. Image: 1890s classmates

  • 1894
    1894: A group of 1890s graduates in white dresses posing for a yearbook photo


    Columbian Women is organized for the purpose of advancing the interests of women and the university. Image: 1890s yearbook image

  • 1904
    1904: Second home of the university from 1884 to 1910, at 15th and K streets NW.


    The George Washington University is established by an Act of Congress. Columbian College and the Graduate School are consolidated under the Department of Arts and Sciences. Image: Second home of the university from 1884 to 1910, at 15th and K streets NW

  • 1934
    1934: George Gamow


    Theoretical physicist George Gamow, an early advocate and contributing developer of the Big Bang Theory, joins the faculty and ushers in an era of in which GW serves as a prominent center of scientific activity. Image: George Gamow

  • 1938
    1938: 1950s classroom space with Greek letters sign


    Columbian College Dean Henry G. Doyle establishes the first Phi Beta Kappa chapter in Washington, DC, at GW. Doyle leads the college through the early 1950s. Image: Classroom in the 1950s 

  • 1957
    1957: Physics class in Corcoran Hall


    Columbian College’s longest serving dean, Calvin D. Linton, begins his 27-year tenure, a period marked by significant expansion of college faculty and programs. Image: Physics class in Corcoran Hall

  • 1962
    1962: President John F. Kennedy, wearing a graduation gown, and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy visit GW campus


    Columbian College alumna Jacqueline Kennedy, BA ’51, visits campus with her husband, President John F. Kennedy, who was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws. Also in 1962, Columbian College changes its name to the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. Image: President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy visit GW campus on May 3, 1961.

  • 1980
    1980: Phillips Hall


    Phillips Hall, the unofficial home of the Columbian College, is built. The building is dedicated in 1986. Image: Phillips Hall

  • 1984
    1984: Clara M. Lovett


    Clara M. Lovett becomes the first female dean of the college. 

  • 2013
    2013: Ben Vinson III


    Ben Vinson III becomes Columbian College’s first African American dean. 

  • 2015
    2015: Science and Engineering Hall


    The state-of-art Science and Engineering Hall opens on the Foggy Bottom Campus. The 500,000 square foot building is home to innovative, cross-disciplinary teaching and research spaces. 

  • 2021
    2021, 200 Years Bicentennial: graduate students working at microscopes in Science and Engineering Hall


    Columbian College celebrates its Bicentennial and two centuries of growth as a major research institution in the nation's capital. 


Our History


Marc Albert

Marc Albert

BA '70, History

"GW is really the foundation of everything that I am, everything that I've accomplished, everything that I'm interested in. It was really the beginning of the wonderful life here in Washington. I've practiced law, first with the justice department and then in private practice I am involved in many, many non-profit foundations... My GW education never ended since I've left as a student."